Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Review
Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 is a portrait prime lens for Leica rangefinder cameras.
This is one of the first Leica lenses. Produced since 1931 through 1968 and has several versions.
In this review is «Black Belt» version, the most common, which was produced from 1949 to 1963 the most common.
Optical design of this version is 4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type).
Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Specs
Focal length: 90mm
Aperture range: f/ 4 - f/ 32
Aperture blades: 15
Length (mm): 86
Weight (gr): 280
Filter Ø (mm.): 33
Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Handling and Mechanics
The lens is compact, especially unusual to see such a small diameter lenses and frames. As soon as it took in hand, immediately it appreciated the constructive and good ergonomics, and it became clear why so many photographers has fanatic love of the Leica brand. The designers did a good job on the design, I too can say, fell in love with this design.
The lens is assembled in a metal frame gray-silver color. Lens length 86mm. A diameter of the filter is 33mm. Here such interesting proportions.
View at focusing on infinity
In the middle of the barrel is the focusing ring. It is made of metal, not rubberized and has a solid small incisions in order to make it convenient to rotate it. It is rotated by 270 degrees.
View at MFD
By rotating the ring, lens is extended by 12mm. It is a pity that I could not use it housing on reflex camera Nikon.
On the barrel applied focusing scale in meters, and the depth of field tags at different apertures.
Below, near the bayonet is 10mm black decorative ring. It is because of this ring, this version received by collectors the name «Black Belt».
This copy has M39 thread. But there are also versions bayonet M-mount.
The diaphragm closes smoothly and has 15 blades it is not blackened.
The front element is covered with a metal cap, which flaunts embossed Leica logo.
The lens is composed of two parts. The front part is optical, elements inbarrel, and back part is mechanical, focusing helicoid.
Front part easily unscrewed from the helisoid, and thus it can be installed on another helicoid to get the focus to infinity in the SLR cameras. This look at it below.
Mount Elmar f=9cm 1:4 on DSLR Camera
Despite the fact that the lens for rangefinder camera, because it has retrofocus optical design with a long flange distance, as well as due to the fact that front optical part easily unscrew, you can mount it on any SLR camera using the shorter helicoid, which would to compensate flange distance.
Front part of Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4
I used homemade focusing helicoid based on Industar-50 3.5/50.
But there are difficulties. Despite the fact that mounting front part to helicoid threaded connection, it is a nonstandard thread M33x0,75. So I could not do without the help of the turner.
Familiar turner machined me this is a transitional step down ring M42-M33, I screw it in my focuser.
Improvised step down ring M33-M42
Do not forget to blacken the inside of the ring, to eliminate possible parasitic flare. By the way, the native helicoid has an excellent blackening inside.
To compensate for the flange distance, I needed to add a small extension tube, and M39-M42 adapter (4 mm thick, without the 4 mm segment offset and non perfect though infinity will focus range is uncomfortable). And finally, for installation on a Nikon camera must also M42-Nikon adapter.
That's how the lens looks to the new helicoid, not bad.
Look at the Nikon D80
Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Example Photos
All photos taken on Nikon D3100, RAW export with minimal exposure correction.
Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Sharpness
At wide-open aperture the lens shows good sharpness.
When it covering to a value f/5.6 the sharpness in exellent, especially at far distances.
When closing aperture to f/8, some improvements I have not noticed, I think at f/5,6 is the best performance.
Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Character and Bokeh
The lens has an Tessar optical design. Therefore, character is quite predictable. But unlike the Zeiss Tessar's and Soviet Industar's Elmar character seemed me more interesting, more ductile.
Bokeh is beautiful, evenly blurring.
Some photographers, Elmar f=9cm 1:4 character like more than the late Elmarit having the same focal length but faster.
Elmar f=9cm 1:4 Contrast and Color Rendering
The lens has a good contrast. The colors are nice, but different from the modern lenses. There is a certain vintage charm.
As for the backlight, it does not copes. It should be strong direct light to get into the frame, and you get the picture overcast veil.
I recommend to use the hood.
f/ 5.6 example in backlight
In general, photographing at Elmar, avoid strong direct and lateral light and be all right.
Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar Elmar f=9cm 1:4 is interesting vintage portrait lens. Ergonomics is so convenient that you do not want to part with it after using it. It is especially useful to using it on mirrorless cameras, where it can be as a moderate telephoto. Despite its optical defects, is now valued by photographers.